LOVE TO BE NEEDED, OR NEED TO BE LOVED?
By Shari Schreiber,
How often have you heard yourself
say, "I'm a giver, not a taker"? Have you experienced
any discomfort when receiving something from another~ whether it's
a gift, a compliment or a kind gesture? Have you ever known what
it feels like to be in a reciprocal relationship?
If these questions trigger memories of awkward, familiar sensations,
it means you were programmed as a small child to believe that receiving
vital supplies of attention, affection and emotional support came
at a substantial cost to your parent(s). Very young, you learned
to accommodate and normalize these bad feelings, and began putting
others' feelings and needs far ahead of your own, because doing
otherwise meant you'd have to endure sensations of guilt
You might identify yourself
as a 'rescuer type' personality, but you were not born with this
trait. It was cultivated in you from an early age, and it's directly
due to faulty relationship dynamics with an impaired parent (or
Were you raised in a home
where everything you did was closely monitored or controlled? Did
you grow up feeling as if you had to be perfect, to please your
mother or father? What was the cost to you, if (God forbid) you
ever failed to perform perfectly? Might you have feared the loss
of their affection, approval or love?
you read through this material, you might experience sudden sleepiness
or perhaps a little sadness. This is a somatic
(biological) response in your body, which indicates that a facet
of you is relating to various issues being discussed or explained
here, and they have very important meaning for you. While you may
choose to take a short break, rest assured that there's nothing
to fear from these uneasy feelings, and I encourage you to continue.
You'll get the most value from this information, if you return to
the hyperlinks that take you to other
pages after you've finished reading this entire
LIVING CREATURES HAVE NEEDS~ EVEN YOU!
A fairly large number of clients
have reported that throughout their life, their mother commented
on what a 'good baby' they'd been; "you never cried" is
what they've repeatedly been told growing up. All babies have substantial
needs, and they cry to alert their parent to what's required
concerning food, diapering, holding/comforting, warmth, etc. If
the baby never cries, we must ask why.
Did it feel unsafe to express these vital needs? Did we sense we
might not survive, if we inconvenienced our mother by having
any needs? As this child grows, will he mistakenly presume his utter
silence and refusal to have needs, is an admirable and good
None of us grew up being perfectly
parented--in fact it's virtually impossible to anticipate that this
could even happen. Alas, we are all products of our experiences,
which have impacted us to one degree or another, and that's what
this piece attempts to address. There will likely be parts of this
article that you'll relate to, and other parts you won't--but if
any of this material opens a doorway to greater self-awareness,
healing might begin for you, your child, parent or spouse~ and that's
is extraordinarily dense with meaning, and must
be absorbed very slowly, to help you understand why your love affairs
haven't worked out the way you've wanted them to. It's best that
you read no more than a few paragraphs per day--then ask yourself;
what's this segment trying to teach me about myself? so
that you can learn, and actually benefit from it. With every review
of this piece, you will gain deeper understanding, and be able to
emotionally integrate far more of it~ so why stop with only one
When you're a self-proclaimed
"giver," it's highly probable that you've been raised
in a home where important emotional needs were not acknowledged
or adequately responded to, and you've compensated for
this deficit, by becoming a caregiver. Even if
you thought your parents were overburdened in some way, you might
have tried to become an 'invisible' child, so as not to
place more demand on them, or risk incurring painful repercussion
for having any needs of your own.
Perhaps you had a parent who
always put the needs of a spouse, neighbor or friend far ahead of
their own (and yours), and as this was the example set for you,
it's what you've emulated. It's just what 'good people' do~ or so
you've been taught.
As a small child, you may
have discovered that taking care of another's feelings or needs
provided vicarious satisfaction, and a sense of self-worth, empowerment,
and well-being or safety. As an adult, whether you've promoted another's
dependency on you emotionally, physically or financially, feeling
needed has fortified your self-esteem~ but it's also eased
abandonment concerns, which is central to your
compulsive 'fixing' behaviors and poor relationship choices.
AS THE TWIG IS BENT,
SO GROWS THE TREE.
to one's sense of Self throughout infancy and early childhood, are
often referred to as core damage/trauma or narcissistic
injury, within the body of this text. In simple terms, having core
issues means that the 'hub' of your wheel has been broken or damaged
in some manner. When the very center of your being is compromised,
all the spokes which emanate from this point will be weak, and susceptible
to breaking under any amount of strain or pressure. Core trauma
impacts every aspect of our existence, as it shapes self-worth,
and influences how we think about and take care of ourselves, within
professional and personal relationships.
small child has no way of relating to or making sense of the words,
"I love you." These words literally mean nothing, if they
aren't consistently backed up with parental gestures of affection
and warmth, which are congruent with their meaning.
core damaged child might ask his mom or dad, "do you love me?"
The parent's response may be, "of course I do, you're my
kid!" but a child who's looking for confirmation
that he is loved, is one who cannot actually feel or believe that
he is! The adult child will go through life feeling dependent on
verbal validation and confirmation from others, because from an
early age, he's lacked vital supplies of affection and praise, from
which he would have learned he was valuable/lovable, and gained
the capacity to self-validate.
core trauma results from poor or inadequate parenting from as early
as infancy onward, this wounding inevitably causes attachment struggles
in adulthood. Unfortunately, no amount of insight on this topic
can mend core issues, for what's needed is solid reparenting to
replace the faulty original template we grew up accepting
as 'normal' during childhood. In truth, this is a relationship
problem, which requires resolution within a corrective,
relational bond. You cannot resolve core wounding without highly
specialized care and guidance, and the unique opportunity to acquire
specific self-worth building tools. Standard modalities of treatment
(i.e. psychotherapy, CBT, etc.) cannot dismantle core issues, for
resolution requires healing the Heart that's been damaged since
childhood~ not the head.
THE CLONE CONSPIRACY
Narcissism in parents is the
primary cause of psychopathology in our society. The narcissistic
parent wants a child who's exactly like him or her~ a carbon
copy or clone so to speak. If this kid has different values and
personality features than the parent, he's regarded with disappointment
and disdain or disapproval, and criticized or punished. It's challenging
for any parent to bond with a child who's unlike him/herself,
but the narcissistic mother or father treats it like a sin, and
their 'prodigy' grows up never feeling good enough or lovable, just
for being himself.
This issue is usually passed
along generation to generation, which is why so many talented young
people are urged (often against their will) to echo the parent's
career choice or take over the family business, even if they have
no natural ability in that arena, or passionate desire to follow
a parent's path.
Depression in teens and young
adults typically results from feeling like they can never live up
to a parent's expectations, if they have wishes and dreams that
aren't congruent with Father's or Mother's. Hence, pleasing one's
parent routinely takes precedence over pleasing oneself, and core
issues having to do with this child's lack of selfhood become cemented.
Sadly, a parent might attach
more fully to the child who echoes his/her own more favorable traits~
but reject or criticize a child's less favorable features like depression,
inertia or anger for example, that the parent has failed to recognize
and accept in him/herself.
The narcissistic parent is
insecure. God help the adult child who surpasses his parent's
achievements, for this can inspire malicious competition from the
envious parent toward his/her offspring. A cloned child gets set-up
for feeling damned if he accomplishes, and damned if he fails~ which
often catalyzes self-sabotaging behaviors, as it's somewhat easier
to accept a parent's dismay or disappointment in our imperfect performance,
than to incur his or her resentment and jealousy, if we excel. On
a subconscious level, we'd essentially prefer our parent to be 'right'
about us, than risk becomming empowered and well.
This clone issue has far reaching
ramifications with respect to our adult relationship choices. It
clouds our judgment, in terms of how much criticism and rejection
we'll accommodate from romantic partners, as this is what feels
normal, based on faulty programming we received as kids. No matter
how much abusive treatment our partner dishes out, it doesn't hold
a candle to how critical and shaming we are of ourselves!
We believe this lover/spouse
is a perfect fit for us, because they treat us as dreadfully as
we treat ourselves. Still, we desperately try to please them and
win their approval and affection, which can exhaust or make us physically
ill~ and quite literally, cause our premature demise.
Unfortunately, our painful
inner torment that's long associated with unresolved childhood entitlement
issues ("I'm not worthy or deserving of receiving what I need
and want"), routinely inserts itself into our professional
life, as well~ and blocks our success and prosperity. This present
day obstacle feels agonizing to us, because it confirms every shameful
deficit we were programmed to believe about ourselves,
PAINFUL INNER CONFLICT OF THE TOO GOOD CHILD
child who's grown up believing they have to behave perfectly
in order to receive attention, affirmation or praise, has acquired
a distored definition of love. For this
child, Love means painful longing and yearning for that which cannot
be gratified. Thus, this same type of emotional experience
is intoxicating in his/her adult attachments, for their present
anguish is literally identical to feelings that he/she experienced
throughout childhood, which are now interpreted as 'the
real deal,' or True Love.
means, lovers who are capable of reciprocating their care
and affection, are rejected out of hand. It's boring and doesn't
feel like a fit, because this dynamic doesn't trigger the
dramatic inner pain that was consistently associated with loving,
as a kid.
children grow into needful adults, but they could fear that if they
let themselves love somebody as intensely as they want to, that
person will shriek, run off into the night, and abandon them. Their
sense of need feels gigantic, and often very painful. It presumes
that someone on the receiving end won't be able to handle it--which
triggers shame for being "so needy." This shame
makes one want to shut-down their needs (or control them), which
is a defense that has one giving to others, what
he/she desperately requires. It also has them choosing emotionally
unavailable partners who reactivate chaotic, painful sensations
that reinforce their childhood abandonment or abuse trauma.
core injured adult child lives with the tormenting, inescapable
question: "Am I good enough to be loved by you?"
disordered individuals have worked especially hard since childhood,
to convince themselves they're lovable. They've honed their talents,
abilities and seduction skills to compensate for a tormenting inner
sense that they're defective, which has resulted from years of inadequate
or unwholesome parenting.
issues have to do with poor self-worth, and our inability to feel
deserving/worthy of receiving what we need and want. Having healthy
self-esteem means that we're equally as comfortable 'getting'
as giving. Our desperate, unrelenting quest to gain acceptance and
approval from others (so that we can feel good about ourselves)
is central to compulsive giving, fixing and rescuing behaviors.
A lack of Self keeps us trying to fill the hole in our soul at
any cost, with unsuitable partners who highlight core insecurities
we've retained since we were toddlers.
'Wounded Bird Syndrome' is
an intricate relationship problem. It involves our subconscious
need to select and remain with somebody who's impaired in some manner,
and isn't likely to leave us for someone better. It's driven by
our deep sense of inadequacy, and accompanying wish to avert abandonment.
This poor self-worth issue is implanted in early childhood, by a
needy parent who required care or comforting for their
feelings, but wasn't capable of giving that kind of attention to
The act of
taking care of another, helps you access emotions like sympathy/compassion
toward someone else, that you've never permitted yourself to feel
toward you, which is projection.
Maybe you grew up with a depressed
mother or father, and you did whatever you could to ease their sadness
or cheer them up, with the secret hope that you might eventually
get the affection, care and playfulness you required.
Perhaps this parent felt over-burdened by their spouse or one of
your siblings, who acted-out their despair by getting in trouble
a lot~ and by contrast, you tried to be "the good child."
Your efforts to please mostly went unnoticed and unrewarded, and
if that parent eventually became sick and died or they committed
suicide, you might have grown up feeling responsible for not
having prevented it, and your Savior Complex was born.
are 'easy marks' for individuals with personality
disorder features, mostly because they grew up with an impaired
parent who was incapable of meeting their need for bonding. Their
inability to recognize and honor/respect their own feelings,
instincts and needs leaves them highly susceptible to engaging relationships
that lack emotional reciprocity, which is examined and explained
in detail throughout this literature.
GRASS ROOTS OF AN INTRICATE, ANCIENT GARDEN
child who experiences deficits in nurturant attention, encouragement,
affection, positive mirroring, etc., from his parent, presumes it's
his/her fault, and experiences shame ("I'm
not good enough or lovable"). This child grows up with the
belief that if he/she tries just a little harder to gain these emotional
supplies, they will be forthcoming. Up to a point, this has them
efforting to be perfectly helpful and useful--but it's very seldom
rewarded. The parent may praise an accomplishment--but does not
convey the intrinsic lovability of this child, which reinforces
his ideation that he must 'do,' in order to receive acceptance and
children experience performance fatigue, and give-up trying
to get these crucial parental needs met~ but carry the very same
behaviors into their adult associations! Their painful hope that
someone, someday will find them worthy of loving, has them
chasing after it (often, against all odds) in their romantic partnerships.
If they manage to find a partner who can initially mirror
their worth, it concretizes that it might not have been their
lack of lovability with their parents, after all.
problem with this subconsciously driven need for validation, is
that they're prone to remaining with lovers who are cut from the
same cloth as the people who raised them~ so their end result is
consistent and identical. These partnerships reconstitute their
original shame from parental neglect and/or abuse. The
desperate need to flee this awful feeling of shame, perpetuates
an unrelenting compulsion to obtain love from partners who are as
incapable of supplying it as their parents had
been, as this is what feel natural and 'normal.'
issue is exacerbated, when harsh
treatment from one of our parents is not only permitted, but
is sanctioned by the other with; "he/she really
does love you." This is terribly confusing for a small
child, for he/she experiences pain at
the hands of Mom or Dad, but is repeatedly told that "it's
Love." This skewed definition of what love is, taints our perceptions
and sets us up for a lifetime of accepting that anguish in our relationships
is to be expected~ and that hurting, is an normal part of loving!
Any parent who's whitewashed the other's abusiveness, has
screwed up their child for life~ for he will always lack common
sense and distrust his instincts, unless/until solid, core healing
intervention is obtained.
a client tells me they had a "perfect childhood," or that
his/her parents had an ideal, long-term marriage, I know
we've got challenging work ahead. The reality is, if this were true,
they would not be struggling to form healthy attachments--and they
definitely wouldn't be needing My help. Denial keeps us
trapped in self-blame for our failings, instead of putting the blame
where it actually belongs. It also keeps us addicted to
dramatic, painful romantic experiences.
no such thing as "love addiction." What exists instead,
is an addictive compulsion to trigger feelings of infatuation,
which is about one's capacity to fall in love with him/herself,
under the adoring gaze of another. This sensation is fleeting/transcient,
and has nothing whatsoever to do with genuine feelings of love for
may have convinced yourself that your parents "did the best
they could" but if that's so, why are you
having to invest all this time, money and effort in therapeutic
treatment and a litany of self-help venues, just to feel okay about
hear all the time, from people who say "I know my mom or dad
loved me." How did you know this? What evidence do you have
to support beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you were loved by your
parent? How much physical affection to you recall receiving when
You (not your parent) needed to experience closeness?
child needs to feel valued by his/her parent. He
needs to see welcome on the parent's face when he enters
a room, and feel like he really matters, and is adored. Very few
of us ever got to experience this--in fact, what we consistently
saw instead, were expressions of indifference or annoyance--and
this shaped how we grew up feeling about ourselves!
reality, your parents showed you a distorted reflection
of yourself, and you've trusted it as accurate: "How could
Mom and Dad be wrong about me~ don't they know me better
than anyone else does??"
we repeatedly feel confusion, disappointment or distress in childhood,
we have to normalize those experiences in order to survive
them. Often, we stow away these difficult feelings or make them
not matter, so we're able to coexist with a variety of upsets--and
the people responsible for them (our parents). The problem is, these
survival strategies remain intact throughout our adulthood,
and prompt serious issues like anxiety
compulsive behaviors, attachment fears, impaired partner selection,
feelings are put away in childhood, our emotional growth is stunted.
As we can't help but be drawn to partners who echo our earliest
experiences and match our level of emotional development,
we're naturally attracted to others who are as underdeveloped and
damaged as we--which sets us up for failure in our Love life. These
unions seem familiar and 'normal' to us, so there's an
exciting and compelling drive to maintain them. This element is
discussed in greater depth toward the end of this article--but the
following material will help you understand why you've landed here.
always astounded, when I work with clients who have any
trust in God or sense of spirituality, after they've survived horrible
cruelty at the hands of their parents. To a small child, the
parent IS a god--someone
he/she trusts implicitly and automatically, to protect and care
for them. The stories I hear of the pain these people have endured
are heartbreaking, and I'm amazed at their capacity to even approach
A few of my clients have chosen
to share this material with their parent. If You are a parent, and
your grown child has gifted you this article or you've
found it by chance, there's a strong likelihood they're needing
your apology for some childhood issues they've struggled to surmount.
If you're wanting to build a closer bond with him or her, any attempts
to make amends must be heartfelt--and made without
explanations or excuses! The reasons you weren't 'equipped'
to do it differently or better, are of no use in context of easing
the pain they still carry. In short, this effort can't become about
you and your struggles, for while they may have empathy
and understanding for your plight, they're still wrestling with
unresolved wounds and trust issues. Healing is
only possible, when someone you've hurt (even
unwittingly) can feel your sincere remorse. While this
process isn't easy, it can go a long way toward helping you repair
any relationship where trust has been undermined.
CAREGIVER EQUATES BEING NEEDED, WITH BEING LOVED.
Your caregiving nature
is drawn to codependent relationship dynamics with friends or lovers
who are either handicapped, in crisis, emotionally/sexually underdeveloped,
substance addicted or in recovery/rehab. You've unwittingly selected
partners whose self-esteem is flagging, or whom in some way need
rescuing or extreme amounts of support or nurturing. Quite
often, feelings of boredom or emptiness will prompt phone calls
to friends who allow you to fuel/fix them with 'pep talks' including
emotional or psychological bolstering, so you
can feel more alive afterward. Occasionally, you might romantically
connect with someone who initially shows promise or "potential,"
only to be disappointed and angry at the end of this relationship,
having carried the financial and/or emotional weight for both of
you! The subconscious theme that underlies this pairing process
is: "If you NEED me, you'll never leave me."
In the rare event a selected
lover presents as self-sufficient and non-needy, Caregivers are still
compelled to encourage some level of dependency. This can be demonstrated
by attempts to subtly undermine a partner's confidence in body image,
wardrobe preference, dietary habits, work proficiency, sexual adequacy,
etc. Basically, if there's opportunity to create (at least) an
illusion of being indispensable and needed, abandonment concerns
are averted. This behavior is driven by our subconscious determination
to maintain inequity in our relationships, for the one who needs
the least is always the one in power.
Partners may unwittingly undermine
themselves by losing jobs, getting sick, injured, etc., to be complicit
with the dynamic you've needed to maintain in the relationship.
There's always a payoff in this--as the unspoken agreement or 'contract'
that was created when you two first joined remains unchanged,
and neither of you has to budge from your established role, or comfort
When a mate/partner is perceived
as diminished (or less than) you feel more secure, in that
you can control the relationship dynamic and manipulate its
emotional climate to suit internal comfort levels. In
truth, feeling needed is enhancing to
your self-image, and reinforces a sense of well-being/safety; but
if a lover gains some empowerment and develops a more equal
footing, your Caregiver prowess is suddenly diluted. This is when
your emotional equilibrium feels compromised and abandonment anxiety
surfaces, prompting either sabotaging or clinging behaviors. Selection
strategy generally insures against this outcome, as you will turn
away from lovers or friends who are capable of meeting you on a more
balanced playing field. Healthier choices require authentic
self-esteem, which you may never have had opportunity to develop.
You'll naturally guard against anybody discovering this secret, as
covert shame (a remnant from childhood) steers you away from more
viable, fully-integrated people who might notice your fragility
and/or shortcomings~ and find you unworthy of their love. This is
not true, incidentally~ it's just your own sense of inadequacy that's
projected onto them. It's how you assume they'll view you.
at the core of this issue?? Being
loved in totality is something that Caregivers do not fundamentally
believe is possible, as "negative" (or less appealing) traits
and feelings have been suppressed since infancy, in effort to gain
more affection and care, and mitigate fears of abandonment. Essentially,
this child has been emotionally blackmailed into responding to the
needs of his/her mother, and personality aspects that were unpleasant
or inconvenient for her to accommodate,
have been surrendered/discarded. Even if Mom just wanted to shield
her husband from any form of agitation, her child is conditioned to
accept/believe that specific facets and feelings are unacceptable,
wrong and bad. As he matures, he will internalize
and adopt this attitude toward himself~ even the subtlest awareness
of their presence makes him think he's unlovable
and "bad," so he virtually amputates them out of
his persona and becomes a People Pleaser, which often
causes serious health repercussions.
Various cancers, stomach/intestinal
issues, glandular difficulties, rheumatism, migraine headaches and
Anxiety/Panic Disorders are only a few
of the ailments that are triggered by long-held resentment and repressed
rage. It's not that anger is bad--but it's harshly self-judged,
and banished from one's personality structure. Deficits in feelings/emotions
of any type results in one maintaining a partial
personality, instead of a whole one.
are attracted to dimensions/aspects in others, that are absent in
themselves (think of a jigsaw puzzle searching for its own missing
pieces in another, that houses a greater variety of shapes and colors),
which is key to why they attach themselves to lovers who
possess volatile, cruel or fragile personality facets. Their desire
for a sense of completeness has them drawn to these traits
within others--rather than developing an autonomous, fully dimensional
and healthy actualized Self.
ONE MAN'S CEILING IS
ANOTHER MAN'S FLOOR.
Caregiver personalities learned
to mitigate their emotional pain in childhood, by noticing others
who were less fortunate. If they could observe another child's far
worse plight, it affirmed (by contrast) that theirs wasn't
so bad after all--and their own pain seemed more palatable. We've
all grown up with platitudes; "I cried when I had no shoes,
until I met a man who had no legs." You couldn't feel compassion
for yourself, because (according to your parents) there was
always someone else who had it a lot worse, and besides,
"pity-parties" weren't allowed in your home!
If our parents judged or invalidated
our pain, we learned to treat ourselves precisely the same way when
uncomfortable emotions emerged. Core shame is experienced by the child
whose anguish or emptiness is trivialized by a dad or mom who's disconnected
from his/her own feelings and needs. This parent treats the
child's painful feelings as bad or wrong, and admonishes him to "snap
out of it," while assuring that others are far less
fortunate than he, and he should be grateful for what he has! This
kid will grow up invalidating his own anguish, needs and wants, for
it triggers core shame in him for desiring anything beyond
There is no opportunity for
this child to receive an empathic response to his pain, nor grow up
with any capacity to respect his own feelings, and learn to self-soothe.
He becomes an empty, robotic shell of an adult, for this is who he
is schooled to become. His genuine feeling self has been
When various feelings are disposed
of during childhood, our extra-sensory aspects (instinct and intuition)
cannot function properly. This puts us at high risk for professional
and personal setbacks, because rather than relying on our innate senses
or built-in survival guide to direct us, we make choices based on
what we think is right, rather than sensing
what will best serve us (or our children). This leaves us second-guessing
important decisions or choices~ and worst of all, distrusting ourselves.
Your instincts will never
lie to you. If you find it difficult to trust others, it's because
you're so dissociated from your feelings, you can't/won't
trust your senses to help you determine whom you can trust, and who
DEFENSES, DENIAL AND
DEATH OF THE REAL SELF.
false-self is grandiose, to compensate for its inherent human frailty.
It's constructed from defenses and denial of true feelings, which
keeps the real Self protected. This mighty, invincible aspect
we construct early in life helps us surmount painful emotional deficits
in childhood--but when we're grown, there's a heavy price to pay for
maintaining it. We're afraid to let that mask drop, for fear we'll
be viewed as incidental or useless, and be rejected. We've learned
that our survival depends on being strong/indispensable,
and there's no room for 'weakness' of any kind--but the truth is,
to really love someone, means to need them,
and let our vulnerability co-exist with our strengths within a trusted,
deeply intimate connection.
As touched on earlier in this
piece, childhood coping strategies taint
our perceptions in adulthood. They have us feeling sorry for another--even
when they've caused us great harm. The sympathetic feelings
we give to somebody else are frequently triggered by our
own long-discarded sense of fragility that's projected
onto them! This reflex is automatic, if you've attached to a partner
who has Borderline Personality Disorder.
Rather than feeling your
anguish and licking fresh wounds, you will find ways to "forgive"
(but you're constantly obsessing,
and can't forget!). You'll make allowances or excuses for others,
but never yourself. Genuine empowerment has remained elusive, but
self-protective, survival defenses have remained intact, which derails
your ability to forge wholesome, healthy reciprocal attachments.
THE BLIND LEADING THE
resolving core trauma gives birth to arrogance. It has us giving to
those who crave our attention, but don't actually want to feel better.
Maybe you've provided a patient ear and offered sound support to a
friend over the course of months or years, but nothing ever changes
for him or her. You're addicted to the effort though, as it stimulates
feelings of aliveness in you.
compulsions are usually heightened, with our friends who have Borderline
Personality Disorder features. They'll complain about issues with
a friend or lover, yet will not seek therapeutic help for those concerns.
Why should they? You're their enabler who loves being
needed~ and your payoff, is keeping them as impaired and hapless as
they are. Ask yourself, "what else would I be doing with
all my spare time, if I halted this behavior??"
friends try to piggy-back onto your inner work. Therapy 'by
proxy' never helps someone. You are not equipped to assist them, even
if you feel you're making solid gains in treatment~ besides, this
is the blind leading the blind, for rather than enduring your own
difficult feelings, you still want to distract yourself with trying
to relieve another of theirs! This behavior fortifies your rescuing
compulsions, and forestalls emotional expansion and healing.
great at fixing, rescuing, teaching and advising, but authentic
intimacy/closeness is unsustainable and avoided, given their
deep seated abandonment concerns. Caregivers are often attracted to
borderline disordered individuals who match their
own emotional deficits and attachment fears.
powerful individuals are attracted to others like themselves. They
don't prey on the weak or needy, and they do not
need to be needed.
ENMESHMENT MEANS, "WHERE
DO YOU END, AND I BEGIN?"
Caregivers can't allow others
to struggle with difficult feelings, because they're unable to respect
and hang out with their own. When a friend is sad, caregiver personalities
feel an irrepressible need to micro-manage or mitigate the other's
emotions, because permitting their own has always been too
challenging. When you learn to tolerate your uncomfortable
feelings, you'll start letting others have theirs.
has developed an idealized notion of how he must be perceived
in order to be loved--so each giving gesture literally provides
a self-image payoff. While this emotional 'reward'
may be satisfying on some level, the compulsion to take care of others,
consistently overrides personal needs and underdeveloped
feelings, and perpetuates an issue of "Giving 'till
it hurts," because sensations of guilt and emptiness
are experienced when he doesn't.
If you haven't come to fully
accept yourself with both light and dark facets and feelings,
how can you possibly like and respect yourself? This issue sets you
up for having to buy another's love
to make up for your insecurities, with generous gifts, gestures and
behaviors that consistently place another's desires and needs before
your own. These actions are always automatic and reflexive, because
your needs have never mattered, and you've never learned
to discern, respect or sanction them.
The Pleaser so hungrily seeks
approval, he'll happily work longer hours, take on extra
tasks that aren't part of his job description, never take vacations,
never ask for a raise in salary, etc. He secretly wants his contributions
to be noticed and rewarded--but fear keeps him from asking
for any compensation. He would literally prefer that his employer
intuit his needs/desires and grant what's never spoken of
or requested--as deep down, he doesn't feel worthy
of receiving. This entitlement
issue generally begins during infancy, due to the lack of adequate
care and emotional bonding with our birth mother, and having had little
ability to acquire trust that our basic needs are acceptable,
and can be met.
Unmet needs spawn painful, frustrating
sensations. It's natural for a child to decide that it's easier not
to have needs, than to keep feeling anguish from not having
his needs responded to and honored. This difficulty gives rise to
emotional autism which has us living in a sort of bubble that seals
us off from more pain, while reinforcing the non-needing, codependent
we've grown up making ourselves wrong for
having needs (one of the core tenets of codependency), it's easy to
feel like it's our fault, when we feel bad in a relationship
because we're not getting our needs responded to. This drives the
reflex to bury those needs, and make allowances/excuses for
others. It motivates the need to keep trying, in the face of any/all
obstacles and odds. This impulse comes from archaic sensations of
shame which are codified by a parent's distorted
confirmation that we're defective/unlovable. Our subconscious mind
presumes during childhood that if we were truly lovable, we would
get far more affection/attention, and be happy and content: It
never takes into account another's inability to
love him/herself, or anyone else!
Lurking underneath the surface
of every Caregiver's attachments is often the question; "when's
it gonna be my turn?" They erroneously
presume that the more they give, the more they'll (eventually/some
day) get back--but that cannot happen, due to the type of
person they've chosen to love. This issue is never resolved, because
reciprocal relationships literally feel uncomfortable, and are summarily
I once dated a guy who was the
quintessential codependent. I'm certain our relationship would have
fizzled immediately, had I not been forced to move out of my home
just two weeks into our dance. I felt some depression about it, but
he was 'Johnny on the spot' working overtime, to keep me in his life
against my better judgment (I kept stating this wasn't a great time
for me to get involved). He was very helpful during those months,
but the instant I found a new abode and settled-in, he started acting-out
his abandonment fears by retreating sexually. So I was (finally) feeling
much lighter, and wanting him more than ever~ and he rejected
me (as he assumed I would him, once
I'd rebalanced, and he wasn't 'needed'). Poor
THE FEAR OF GOD FACTOR
Judeo-Christian principles have
fueled faulty beliefs about what constitutes "a good person."
We may be programmed from early in life, to accept that selflessly
doing for others will bring us happiness--but if that were so, why
would so many folks who subscribe to this ideation be suicidally depressed,
and staying in joyless, unproductive relationships? Should we turn
the other cheek, no matter how poorly someone treats us? Is this really
spirituality--or just martyrdom and masochism?
If God needed you to be devoid of all dark or "negative"
emotions, wouldn't he have created you without the ability to feel
While Buddhism promotes the
belief that 'chanting' will bring us everything we want, it takes
a dim view of emotions and actions that aren't considered congruent
with 'being in service' to another--once again, de-prioritizing
our feelings and needs, and putting them on the back-burner
to simmer, and rob energy from more productive pursuits! This nonsense
is underscored by fears of karmic retribution, if we entertain a hateful,
retaliatory or vengeful thought toward someone who's intentionally
done us wrong, and suggests that we surely must have done something
despicable during a past life to have deserved
these parents, siblings or friends who've treated us abominably. Christ,
no wonder Buddha
was fat! If our core belief
is that we don't deserve abundance and love, chanting
will never work, because shame and guilt from childhood deficits block
us from receiving! That's not "Karma" ~it's just
basic, metaphysical law.
and other twelve-step programs actually reinforce and perpetuate
addictions, by urging folks to "let go of their anger."
Transferring an addiction from one substance to another is very common--because
12-Steps don't teach you to accept, honor and function
from all your emotions, rather than a select
few! Darker feelings and personality aspects must be discarded, in
order to 'work the program.' Making amends is lovely--but when it
comes to apologizing to a parent or friend who's been neglectful or
abusive, aren't we seeking forgiveness for crimes we didn't commit??
How can this help us--and doesn't it further our shame,
if we continue to wrestle with bad feelings in those relationships?
Anger is a passionate
emotion that's energizing and enlivening. It's virtually impossible
to feel sad, when we're mad. Judging anger as "wrong" and
turning it against ourselves for feeling it, keeps our depression
and emptiness alive~ and there's just no way around that, which is
why addicts never
In my view,
the single most damaging element of Twelve-Step programs, is they
force you to integrate the (faulty) belief that you're "powerless"
against your addiction~ but how could they keep you "coming
back" decade to decade, if you believed full
recovery was an option?! Powerlessness is something you had to
accept and adapt to as a small child--because there'd be hell to pay,
if you didn't! Dominating, ruthless parents can make a kid feel helpless
and hopeless, causing far too many child suicides, which adult 'caregivers'
prefer to call "accidents." If you credit AA or NA with
keeping you alive, that's fine, but does your notion of really
living mean thriving--or merely surviving?
You left home as a young adult to be autonomous and in-charge of your
own life. Have you accomplished this yet--or are you still dependent
on a system that constantly reiterates that you can't
make it on your own?? Does misery love company--or is there some other
payoff in this paradigm that I'm missing?
Throwing the baby out with the
bathwater isn't what I'm proposing here, but we need to challenge
the merits of these ideologies with some independent, rational thinking--while
respecting their real reparative value for providing an anchor,
a support structure, and a sense of family and belonging
that many of us have sadly, never known.
This 'sense of family' can unfortunately
catalyze detrimental consequences, as well. It might
have us remaining in a toxic, abusive relationship or work environment,
out of an odd sense of loyalty--never realizing our well-being
is dependent on our ability to flee that excruciating situation! Having
missed-out on any healthy sense of 'acceptable' treatment
in our childhood, this pain we're tolerating simply feels normal
I'm a proof's in the pudding
kind of person. If a behavior brings you glee and contentment, it's
worth maintaining. If it doesn't, you'd better ask yourself whether
it makes sense to keep doing the same thing over and over again, expecting
a different result! Fear is what keeps societies trapped in systems
that repeatedly fail them. These are promoted by people who've
needed to control you, not by God--who wants
for you, what you want for yourself.
have grown up under such stringent control by their parents, it's
impossible for them to have adopted alternate, loving/accepting ways
to treat themselves. Their 'critical inner parent' (Freud termed this
the Super-ego) is overdeveloped, they're constantly judging themselves,
and there's no inner peace if they can't perform "perfectly,"
according to the unreasonable standards they've set for themselves!
This element spawns self-loathing in individuals who have sadly fallen
prey to narcissistic and borderline features. The
Black Swan is a 2010 film that exemplifies pathological
is extremely common within this personality type, for there's substantial
difficulty with identifying feelings and needs. Having learned
to obliterate vital emotions in order to survive, recognizing and
conveying them in a direct, straightforward manner not only feels
foreign, it forces one to confront long-dreaded vulnerability, and
challenges or threatens one's entrenched non-needing identity.
Resentment is often cumulative for someone who's
unable to acknowledge feelings, and for whom experiencing and expressing
needs produces deep discomfort. Therefore, a series of minor infractions
that are usually unwitting on another's part, are initially glossed
over, and internalized as trivial or "unimportant."
Mounting resentment can easily
erupt in explosive outbursts, but is more often acted-out
in a passive/non-direct
fashion, which can include physical, sexual or emotional withdrawal,
sarcasm, bitchiness, infidelities, delaying or "forgetting"
specific requests made by the lover, not following through with promises
or commitments, etc. This style of interplay was learned by the adult
child while growing up, as his parents were incapable of engaging
him in healthier, more constructive interactions. The outcome of this
kind of parenting is a deeply wounded self-esteem, and diminished
sense of trust in Self and others: We learn how
to love ourselves and others, by how we were treated as children.
SHOW ME WHERE YOU ARE,
AND I'LL KNOW WHERE YOU'VE BEEN.
Childhood experiences always
predict the nature of adult relationships. An extraordinary number
of males who've grown up without fathers or in homes where
the father was ill, abusive or just emotionally/physically unavailable,
have developed powerful inclinations to fix/rescue
females. When a mother's relationship with her spouse
or partner is lacking in emotional resources or she's unattached,
her children must often assume the complex (adult) role of filling
her emotional void. While the eldest or male child is typically chosen
for this task, any child who's felt responsible for meeting his/her
mother's needs, will likely develop rescuing compulsions. These dynamics
are usually kept in place for the duration of one's life, or the life
of the mother~ and beyond, if there are siblings for whom he or she
feels responsible. This enmeshment
issue acutely interferes with a Caregiver's ability to create a sound,
independent, emotionally gratifying and successful lifestyle, without
significant feelings of remorse, shame or guilt over "inadequate"
attention/support to his parent or siblings, no matter how much
has been offered or provided.
Since these attitudes and behaviors
were essentially implanted during the earliest part of his formative
years, they tend to remain alive indefinitely. If highly specialized
therapeutic help is not engaged to dismantle these constructs,
they are projected onto his romantic liaisons--which spawns significant
emotional ambivalence. Hence, a male who appears to "fear commitment"
is usually trying to avoid engulfment, because
he's lacked a positive and wholesome frame of reference for what it
means to experience closeness. Hence, for this adult child,
bonding means bondage.
His twin fears; Abandonment
and Engulfment (or loss of Self), combine with difficult feelings
of inadequacy and unworthiness that catalyze destructive, compensatory
behaviors. Control issues and addictions help this Caregiver
defend against painful ambivalence that's characterized by deep
longing but fear of needing, and further undermine his
personal strivings and attachment endeavors. He (or she) might routinely
pursue relationships with borderline
disordered individuals, who are incapable of sustaining genuine
intimacy and connection; under these conditions of course,
the task of maintaining 'safe' emotional proximity becomes a non-issue.
Long-distance romances can also inhibit authentic affectional bonds,
and assuage one's engulfment
frequently construct and maintain fast-paced, highly stressful lifestyles,
to avoid difficult sensations (like emptiness or depression) that
can surface when they slow down enough to feel.
Busily responding to the needs and crises of others, reliably bolsters
a tenuous self-image that fits very neatly into their Avoidant Syndrome.
Fixing/rescuing behaviors help Caregivers side-step having to confront
personal issues and challenges, and distract from emotional
pain or dissatisfaction. This is a spectacular form of self-medication--but
relief is only temporary, which reinforces the addictive compulsion
to focus attention outside oneself, rather than looking within.
was once a child who required love and affection to mirror his intrinsic
value and self-worth. Since this was never properly reflected, he
has ingeniously invented various methods by which to gain
a sense of Self, by over-achieving, publicly performing, rescuing
or constantly responding to the needs of others. In essence, he's
been programmed to feel worthless, empty and invisible unless he's
actively doing, so the simple act of being
can invoke guilt and self-loathing. To avert these feelings, even
caregiving professionals are compelled by "fixer-uppers"
in romantic relationships, as well as needful, physically or emotionally
compromised friends who depend on them for support and refueling.
Healthy/whole people are drawn to balanced interpersonal
relationships--not codependent ones.
I had a close collegial friendship
for many years with a gal whose husband so frequently contracted the
Disease du Jour, she was utterly terrified every month or
so, that his demise could be imminent! Since this pattern existed
throughout the thirteen years we'd been friends, I couldn't help but
wonder what underlying issues perpetuated it. In short, what was the
subconscious payoff for his getting sick so often, or diagnosing
himself with each dreaded disease? I finally asked what changes
occurred in their day-to-day dynamic when hubby was supposedly critically
ill--and her reply was predictable; she
gave him a lot more attention
and tender concern! For a guy who'd grown up with
a mother who'd encouraged him to play in the streets, and
had little regard for his safety or well-being, I presumed this extra
attention from his overly-busy, psychotherapist wife felt pretty darned
good. As far as I know, they're still doing that dance--it's really
just simple, emotional mathematics.
This same "friend"
would only return my calls, when she could discern I was
struggling--but I'd have to wait a week or two to hear back from her,
if I just wanted a simple, friendly exchange. She'd offer to take
me to non-emergent medical appointments (which felt infantalizing),
but we'd have to plan weeks in advance, for a social get-together.
It seemed as if friendship was foreign to her, if she couldn't be
in the control seat. Given that I only got attention when
I needed her, I often felt pathologized or less-than in our
relationship. I'd occasionally find myself wishing I were one of her
therapy clients, because they received the lion's share of her attention.
Did I speak with her about these issues? Numerous
times, but nothing ever changed~ and while my affection for her ran
especially deep, I ultimately felt the need to withdraw from this
Too many people
grow up believing that deep, dramatic feelings of longing, yearning
and craving for someone are what "love" is supposed to feel
like~ but genuine love feels reciprocal, steady, nourishing, consistent
and safe. It never produces anguish.
The sensations of yearning and
longing for someone's affection or attention are painful. They represent
unmet emotional needs, which we might presume is our fault
due to self-perceived flaws or shortcomings. If someone invokes these
feelings in you, it means they're incapable of meeting your needs
for closeness, and this relationship is not a solid fit for you. I
have very little tolerance for these sensations because they feel
bad, and force me to recognize that the individual who's triggering
them isn't a healthy or good choice for me~ no matter how much caring
and love I have felt for him or her.
THE DOOR TO WHOLENESS, BY HONORING EMPTINESS.
a child experiences aloneness, it hurts! He lacks a sense
of belonging, or feeling like he actually matters to anyone. These
difficult sensations can feel like emptiness/deadness, and trigger
deep despair. Given these children presume it's their fault
for feeling this way, they attempt to be more useful, important and
other-oriented, to keep their dreaded deadness at bay. This kid turns
into an observer who's always outside himself judging
his every move, rather than living inside himself and noticing,
trusting and honoring his own perceptions, feelings and senses.
Caregiver personalities are
'busy-bodies' who compulsively keep themselves running--despite sensations
of tiredness, sickness, injury, etc. If your entire sense of identity
is contingent on how well you take care of everybody else, how is
it ever possible to slow down, and respond to your personal
feelings and needs? Busy-bodies are typically unable to distinguish
between feelings and thoughts. These folks are accustomed to thinking
their way through life, as opposed to feeling their
way along. Instincts and intuitions are discarded along with other
vital sensations, that function as our inner compass or GPS. Their
absence can leave us shooting in the dark romantically, and settling
for harmful relationships, just to flee inner emptiness that feels
worse than most types of pain.
live with a powerful compulsion to give what they
never received. There's a dire, inescapable need to take care of everyone
else in a manner that's completely foreign to their own childhood
experiences. They'll never fully relax for fear that they're not performing
perfectly enough and have let someone/anyone down, if they
can't! These nagging sensations feel shameful, and reinvigorate their
disease to please~ which perpetuates controlling,
codependent behaviors. Selflessness is just a lofty euphemism for
and it's dysfunctional.
When Caregivers construct elaborate
defenses like crisis/chaos addictions,
they're running from internal distress. Constantly responding to the
needs of others enables them to circumvent their own uncomfortable
feelings (anger, sadness, loneliness, deadness, etc.), and maintain
denial of deep, unhealed trauma. Descending into their personal
anguish within a solid therapeutic alliance is typically avoided,
because the notion of allowing a supportive, nourishing, ongoing relationship
(essential to helping them mend) feels threatening to their
non-needing or 'false-self.' Thus, friendships and professional or
social connections that lack reciprocity
due to inherent limitations or deficits, are subconsciously ratified
and perpetuated. Whether you are a therapist or patient, one salient
truth exists: Feeling creates opportunity and capacity
HEAL THYSELF - THE WALKING WOUNDED PRACTITIONER
Individuals who've not addressed
core wounds (or narcissistic trauma) at the foundation of
this problem, may be especially attracted to careers that involve
psychological or medical intervention. Psychotherapists, doctors and
nurses are all drawn to helping or "fixing" people, as this
can form the basis of their self-worth, and provide opportunities
to 'change' someone in ways that were never possible to accomplish
with their parent. The caregiver's appetite
for omnipotence has germinated from early childhood, and was originally
born out of a need to construct a more powerful/invincible and sometimes
grandiose ego structure, to compensate for archaic deficits that left
them feeling disempowered or fragile.
The painful inner craving that
stems from this emotionally under-nourished period, fuels
addictions to alcohol/drugs, shopping, overeating,
over-work, excessive exercise, scholastic or professional over-achievement,
gambling, sex, etc. Someone's drive to alter, elevate or numb
his/her mood with substances or compulsive behaviors, is a desperate
attempt to fill their core void.
This void or sense of emptiness, represents the
most prominent piece of every addict's fractured inner mosaic--and
profound terror exists within this space.
Caregivers are way too tough
on themselves due to self-loathing, which is a learned response to
abuse and/or neglect during childhood. Maybe they left home to flee
shaming criticisms--but continue beating-up on themselves
for failings or imperfections. It's imperative you
seek specialized help to stop this self-destructive habit!
is frighteningly common among helping professionals. Reluctant to
acknowledge or experience personal needs, even psychotherapists may
neglect to confront their own core disturbances, which leaves
them ill-suited to recognize and empathically respond to their patients'
most distressing feelings, struggles and self-sabotaging patterns--but
is it even possible to effectively walk someone else through a dark
tunnel, that you've been unable or unwilling to navigate?
clinicians are invested in keeping their patients or clients in treatment
far longer than necessary, to fortify their own sense
of Self--and gratify an unquenchable need to feel needed. Sadly, one's
client base might even function as a sort of surrogate family
for the therapist who has yearned for, but lacked a healthy,
meaningful connection with his or her family of origin~ and this issue
can extend your treatment indefinitely!
caregivers are likely to have struggled with individuating from Mother
during early development. Not having made this crossing when it was
age appropriate to do so, has many of them feeling forever obligated
to take care of a parent's needs. Hence, their clients may grapple
with similar challenges of moving on from
therapy, for it's an abandonment trigger for the clinician who has
unresolved issues pertaining to their own disrupted attempts to separate,
and construct an autonomous sense of Self during childhood. The ugly
truth is, your recovery process could be severely compromised, so
that you'll never feel 'well enough' to leave them.
are treatment-resistant. Many have never spent one hour on someone
else's couch, and need to fuel their belief that they've "got
it all together," given their professional accomplishments--but
such is rarely true. I've observed a great deal of borderline
pathology, codependency and other active
addictions in the psychotherapeutic community--and my sense is,
their grandiose defenses are just a by-product of unresolved core
When I was a
teen, my dad once said; "make sure you clean up the mess in your
own backyard, before you start on someone else's." This little
piece of wisdom has had me holding my feet to the fire, with respect
to healing and growth. Perhaps it can serve as a helpful reminder,
for you too. The truth is, we're not ready to take on passengers,
if we haven't plugged up the holes in our own boat. Many people lead
lives of quiet desperation, because they're drowning in an ocean of
unfinished business from their childhood, and have unwittingly chosen
mates who rip the scabs off old, unhealed injuries.
All my clients
have been core trauma survivors. Most have geographically distanced
themselves as far as possible from their parental home, in order to
establish a degree of emotional autonomy. Over time, the issue of
enmeshment (inability to discern and separate feelings belonging
to either the parent or the Self) is resolved. At this juncture, one's
relationship endeavors can start to become more balanced, productive
and gratifying. One's mother figures most prominently within
this enmeshment scheme, as she is the first object of attachment,
and the mother/child bond is intricate and profound.
TRUST, AND OTHER SUCH ANOMALIES
A developing fetus constantly
hears his mother's hearbeat and breathing, and shares her blood and
oxygen supply. He learns to recognize and become familiar with her
voice, language style and the cadence of her speech. Add to this,
he co-experiences her emotional states right along with her~ everything
she feels, he does too. In short, he forms a loving, intimate bond
with her in-utero, and believes there is no separation between them~
as far as he's concerned, she is him, and he is her. This of course,
has far reaching repercussions for children given away at
birth ('adoptees'), and imprints them with feelings of abandonment
that are almost impossible for one to identify or articulate without
sensitive, highly specialized care. Pre-verbal sensations of guilt,
unworthiness and shame, which result from having been given up for
adoption or abandoned by a mother's untimely death (or emotional withholding),
make them feel "unwanted, defective and discarded," and
drive a deep need to avert this kind of trauma from ever
issues can inhibit connections that might become more than casual/superficial,
or cause one to retain relationships that are unfulfilling
or abusive; under these conditions, any connection could
seem better than no connection at all. Many of these folks compulsively
strive for perfection
in adulthood, to ameliorate their ever-present terror of rejection,
or being left.
Whether physical loss of the
mother constitutes part of this core deficit or not, enmeshment issues
stemming from emotional abandonment are easily implanted
during infancy and early childhood. Again,
when a woman's needs are not met by her spouse or partner, they're
usually transferred to her child, which fosters an unhealthy, fused/enmeshed
bonding that conditions him to feel responsible for her survival and
well being. If the child's attempts to form an autonomous
ego are thwarted when he begins to separate and individuate
from her as a toddler, he remains fixated on the needs of his mother,
and on every attachment thereafter~ to his great detriment. Very early
on, he begins to sense that only a modicum of personal need fulfillment
is available to him, which undermines his sense of
worth and viability.
During this child's impaired
post-natal attachment experiences, he acquires a subtle anxiety that
cannot help but question, "if something should happen to
you, what will become of me?" This
deep concern prompts Herculean measures to rescue, fix/repair or normalize
his beloved parent and their interactions, to ameliorate his abandonment
fears. At his own expense, he may even adopt the mother's depressive
or dysfunctional features, to retain some semblance of connection
with her. These rescuing impulses are automatically carried into his
adult dynamics, and are the root cause of codependency issues.
As previously stated, the basis
of this disturbance is intricate, and begins very early. When separation
is attempted by a toddler with a core-damaged mother, this necessary
aspect of his development virtually reactivates the mother's
original abandonment trauma (carried over from her infancy),
and re-awakens insidious primal rage that's projected
onto her child. Prior to his individuation phase, this infant's mother
might have begun experiencing a sense of wholeness, connection and
purpose she's never known before, and these richly pleasurable sensations
fostered her determined efforts to remain attached. Henceforth, the
consistent, underlying message in her facial expressions, verbal tone
and behaviors toward him throughout this very necessary emotional
growth period, could convey; "don't
you dare separate and cease existing for me and my
needs, or I will abandon/annihilate you."
This would echo her own disrupted
efforts to retain affection and approval, while attempting to forge
an autonomous, healthy Ego, distinctly separate/apart from her
mother as a young child. Core emptiness can drive a woman's psychic/emotional
need to give birth to a lot of babies in very close succession;
think of Nadya Sulemon (The Octomom), for she literally thrives on
their dependency. A Borderline mother may physically
harm her children or make them sick in order to keep them
dependent, as with Munchausen's Syndrome by Proxy~ or she might murder
them, as they develop beyond their dependency stage. In either case,
this child's spirit is killed off, which spawns a
sense of despair and deadness or emptiness that (without core
trauma recovery) can last an entire lifetime.
primal needs (from infancy) will always
take precedence over adult needs! Comforting/soothing physical connection
and touching can trap people in frustrating relational dynamics that
are lacking in adult emotional, cerebral, spiritual and financial
need satisfaction. Females often fall prey to relationships with males
they think have "potential," only to be disappointed
when their practical adult needs aren't responded to. They remain
angry or dissatisfied--yet are unable to leave, if their little
girl needs for comfort are being met. At the heart of this issue
grown woman needs are typically forfeited, within
this lack of self-worth paradigm.
enmeshment issues are especially common among men who attach to Borderline
women. A Borderline's clinginess and neediness can feel suffocating
and engulfing~ but at the same time, be comforting. They may replicate
an adult male's earliest bonding experiences (even before birth)
with his Mother. This imprint is potent/heady, and is often retained
as a sense memory; the way she smells, the nature of her
touch or sound of her voice, etc., make him think that he's unwittingly
found what he's needed his whole life! The loss
of this type of attachment typically sends a man spiraling into perilous
pain and longing, which feels unmatched by any other (remembered)
It should be noted, that if
a nourishing symbiosis
with Mother isn't possible during infancy, and a far more attentive/loving
attachment is forged with the father, an emotionally sound adult might
eventually emerge. But if the father should leave
through divorce, death or remarriage, the abandonment trauma
this invokes will significantly impact all future relationships. Anxiety
surrounding potential loss of another who might have substantial
meaning and value, can inhibit or destroy healthy, gratifying adult
connections, and exacerbate personality disorder features.
LOVE HAS BECOME ENTWINED WITH PAIN
The cost of
not resolving core wounds is reflected in every decision and life
choice we make professionally and personally, and it crucially impacts
romantic endeavors. A caring, mutually nurturing
and enhancing relational experience is completely foreign to most
Caregivers. They've seldom (if ever) received affection, support and
positive mirroring from a non-abandoning source, nor have
they experienced loving, that's unaccompanied by pain. The Caregiver
repeatedly welcomes relationships that reactivate dramatic/painful
sensations associated with maternal attachment difficulties, while
routinely rejecting those who are actually equipped to meet his/her
needs. There's little capacity to respond passionately to
a healthy/rewarding dynamic, because the familiar ache of intense
longing and yearning, which has come to be interpreted
as "Love," isn't present
with an available partner! One's perception of such a relationship
is that "something's missing," as it cannot trigger feelings
that parallel the disappointing/unrequited attachment experiences
he had to endure throughout childhood.
lover who's elusive, cruel, or just emotionally and/or physically
unavailable can trigger painful sensations that replicate
what the Caregiver experienced as a child, seeking a loving/responsive
parent. This emotionally inadequate, yet dramatically felt kind of
episode functions as a powerful catalyst, that inspires a tenacious
(and vaguely familiar) pursuit to seduce the object of desire
into returning his attention and ardor. Since the intense feelings
that are invoked by such a relationship are compelling and addictive,
any individual who awakens
them, is presumed to be addictive as well. In the rare event an
attachment is successfully formed, rejection by the lover
can set in motion an internal re-creation of his earliest abandonment
experience, and drudge up excruciating feelings of inadequacy and
shame, which are nearly impossible to tolerate. Punishment of the
Self, such as compulsive, addictive reflexes or destructive acting-out
behavior, usually accompanies or follows this kind of setback.
Perhaps the most tragic part
of this issue, is that core-wounded individuals unwittingly
seek lovers who are no more equipped to respond to their needs, than
their unavailable parent was! They continue to embrace the notion
that they'll one day find someone who excites them, and whom they
can train or teach to love them in ways they've always wanted--but
this is a child's fantasy that will never be realized. Still, if these
inexhaustible efforts should yield even marginal success, they could
feel encouraged to remain, and continue striving for that which cannot
It's very important to realize,
that if a lover could become responsive to his partner's
needs, he'd be discarded because of other perceived shortcomings or
"flaws" that would suddenly seem untenable; again, an available
lover doesn't provoke an intense visceral response. In truth, the
thrill is in pursuit and seduction, which perpetuates an endless
re-enactment of a child's most fervent wish for a closer bond with
his/her parent, while defending against a more palpable fear of losing
a deeply meaningful and nourishing attachment. This often means, that
individuals who are actually capable of loving/caring interactions
are distanced, punished or rejected, so that anxiety surrounding devastating
abandonment, is kept at bay. This
is the Borderline's crucible.
The narcissistically injured
Caregiver may repeatedly convince herself that she is capable
of intimacy, by practicing relationship skills with partners who are
incapable of fully responding to her. Thus,
she continues to refuel the notion that she is "available"
by taking calculated emotional risks--the rewards of which, are false
reflections of her actual capacity to bond.
I'm reminded of a colleague
who routinely resuscitated discarded relationships. During brief episodes
of re-engagement, she was utterly convinced she loved and wanted these
men, but always admitted that if the current lover pursued commitment,
she'd beat a hasty retreat~ and enumerated his "deficits"
to sanction her stance. When one of these former boyfriends eventually
gained closure and attached to another, this gal descended into a
severe depression. Unable to reseduce this man, she appeared
to re-experience her childhood abandonment despair, in having to surrender
this intensely felt, yet under-satisfying connection. My sense was
that profound core sensations of loss, shame and unworthiness,
paralleled acute, long-denied pain from unhealed archaic wounds perpetrated
by her acutely borderline disordered mother.
trauma can create a virtual minefield, in context
of romantic endeavors. Sadly, the partner of an abandoned (adult)
child cannot help but step on emotional land mines that have lain
dormant, perhaps for decades. Self-esteem injuries that have existed
since the primal rejection experience are reactivated--which
triggers intense anguish and rage. It is this
mechanism which elicits volatile/violent reactivity from BPD individuals
toward anyone who has gotten close to them.
As this early
painful material isn't usually held on a conscious level in terms
of its emotional impact, repercussions from a lover's unwitting
slights are very difficult to rebalance from, and often bring about
a couple's relational demise.
Many of us grew up observing
our parents doing battle, and as children learn from example, this
became our definition for what 'marriage' meant. If we're
somehow lucky enough to have found a copasetic, nourishing relationship,
we might need to upset that balance, just to feel like things are
normal. In short, we've gotta throw a monkey wrench
into the works, because harmony and peace feel foreign--and therefore,
uncomfortable. We could even have become somewhat like the
parent we most feared or hated.
CAN'T BUILD YOUR CASTLE ON A CRUMBLING FOUNDATION, AND EXPECT IT TO
What's critical to understand,
is that many of us lacked a healthy, consistent symbiotic
bond during infancy with our birth mothers. As a result, our search
for 'perfect attunement' with romantic partners (for
which we have no suitable frame of reference)
can easily continue indefinitely. The compelling drive to manufacture
this nourishing/satisfying primal experience (and heal), propels us
toward intense, unstable relationships that echo familiar, but defective
interpersonal styles that were imprinted on us throughout infancy
and childhood. Stated more simply, our model for
meaningful adult attachments has been constructed from a relationship
blueprint, which consisted of painful, anxiety provoking, under-nourishing
experiences! This early blueprint continues to influence self-worth
and partner selection, unless and until a solid, nurturing
therapeutic alliance can provide a sturdier foundation built
on supportive, empathic, yet wholesomely boundaried interactions.
healthy people do not choose to be with lovers who aren't.
The person you choose to love
and partner with, mirrors your own level
of emotional development. If you are truly seeking an authentic and
intimate relationship, you won't attach to or remain with someone
who's not, because he/she isn't a 'match' for your fundamental needs
and desires. If you think there's a pattern in your romantic
life that consistently feels lacking, disappointing and/or painful,
you might ask yourself why you're attracted to this type of individual.
More importantly, try to discern the feelings or fears
that emerge within you, when you contemplate deeply loving
someone, who could actually respond to you the way you've
always wanted, and needed to
This is my keystone piece, from
which nearly all other material on this site emanates. It was originally
conceived and written for psychotherapists. More on core injury can
be found within other Articles
and various Forum
discussions. Archived questions and answers relating specifically
to these concerns, are available in my Codependency
Forum. If you're a practitioner with a desire to integrate healing
work into your practice, private guidance is available.
you are seeking help with codependency issues, or your group or organization
would like me to speak on this topic, feel free to contact
me. The following forum letter should provide further insight about
Q. Your article hit home for me,
and I was amazed at the profound power of knowledge. But how do you
change all those "familiar" patterns, and stop rejecting
good people who could be loving/giving to you? What is the recovery
or hope of changing all that early programming, as who had a chance
when they were an infant?
Trust is (ideally) established in the first year of life with our
mothers. As an infant, you may have begun sensing
you couldn't depend on her to respond sufficiently
to your needs, and started moving toward emotional self-reliance in
order to survive. This has served you in some ways, but not in others,
as it's kept you from getting help with
forming healthier, more gratifying attachments! Effective therapeutic
support assists you in healing early deficits, by providing corrective
emotional experiences that are qualitatively different than what you've
been exposed to in your past. These therapeutic opportunities allow
you to receive nurturing, attentive (re)parenting, and assist you
in feeling more worthy (and desirous) of nourishing, loving experiences
within your interpersonal world. Early emotional trauma can be overcome
with the help of a professional who understands how profoundly these
wounds have affected you, and hindered your capacity to accept and
trust an ongoing, nurturing,
supportive relationship. Most 'therapy' doesn't tap into this material.
Seek help from someone who's well-versed in treating narcissistic
injury (or core issues). Additional insights can be gained via the
writings of Alice Miller; search for this author
you have an iPhone, iPad or iPod this app will let you hear
here, to determine if you're in an abusive relationship!
'TILL DEATH DO US PART - BPD and The Marriage Crucible
TO BE A GOOD-ENOUGH PARENT
GOOD WIFE - Who's helping You, when his Ex is a Borderline?
WE MET BEFORE? The Borderline/Narcissist Couple.
The Drama of the Gifted
Child, by Alice Miller (and/or any other books from
"I Don't Want to Talk
About It": Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male
Depression, by Terrance Real.
by David Schnarch, Ph.D.
Shari and Get Session Details
PsychSavant at Twitter.com
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2016, Shari Schreiber, M.A. All Rights Reserved.